Sourdough!

Two batches of sourdough

Gave two small boules to Mad’s intrepid science teacher, and shared a jaco with our in-laws

I grew up in a home where every day meant fresh sourdough bread on the table. There was an endless supply coming from our family’s bakery, and though I knew our sourdough was better than most, I was horribly surprised to land in Colorado as a young adult and discover that good bread couldn’t be found everywhere. As much as I loved the mountains in Colorado, that preservative-rich, chewy white bread that abounded there was dreadful. Eew! Eew! Eew!

In Colorado I tried to make my own sourdough but miserably failed. My baking skills were still too juvenile and I could only make beautiful yet inedible and overly sour loaves. Most of them were shaped into long flutes and served as fighting weapons for my kids. They were so heavy and hard and horrible!
Now that I’ve been baking consistently for many years now, I finally  decided I was ready to become a baker of sourdough. I can keep a starter alive–I can look at dough and know where it’s at in its rise, and I’ve learned some of the oven tricks which help create an artisan loaf. I’ve been gearing up for this big day for quite some time and yippee!!! I made my first real loaf of sourdough!!!
I say real loaf because I have successfully made several very edible batches of sourdough using the no-knead method, where you add starter to your mix, along with a tiny bit of commercial yeast, and bake off your loaves in an enamel or iron pot. And believe me, the no-knead bread is an amazing imposter and worth perfecting. But what I’m talking about is this method: mix-by-hand, let rise for 12 hours, then mold, then let rise another 10 hours, then bake. It’s patience bread, really, and so worth the time…

Sourdough is made by mixing “sourdough starter,” (or mother dough–or levain) with flour, salt, and water. The starter is a yeast mixture of wild yeast, flour and water that is kept alive by regular “feedings.” I know, it sounds a lot like having another baby in the house. This baby, however, eats infrequently, and lives happily in your cupboard or fridge…

Unlike my brother’s bakery, Etxea Bakery in LA, the temperatures and climate in my house vary from day to day, so baking a loaf of sourdough takes a watchful eye. The first batch I baked rose for an initial 12 hours (from 8am to 8pm), then I molded it and let it rise on the counter until 11pm, then I put it in the fridge until 7am the next morning, when I finally baked it. Almost 24 hours start to finish. The second batch rose for 16 hours (from 10 pm until 2pm the next day!), then I molded it, and baked it off at 6pm that evening. A 20-hour journey for this batch–and quite a different voyage for the two rises. Both batches were delicious, but so varied in the way those little yeasties went to work…

Some things I learned:

  • The first rise, just like in all other types of baking, will always take much longer
  • Sourdough is very resilient. The bread can even seem a bit flimsy when going into the oven, like it has overproofed, but the oven spring is amazing.
  • Working with sourdough seems very forgiving. The time frames are so much longer–if you need another half hour to finish a chore, it won’t ruin the bread to wait…

I’ll be posting a sourdough recipe in the next few weeks. For now, if you live in LA and want some terrific sourdough that my brothers are producing, you can grab a friend or spouse, and head to one of these hot restaurants for a taste 🙂

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe–Malibu

26 Beach Restaurant–Venice

Cafe on Location–Tarzana

Fin’s–Calabassas

Fin’s–Westlake

Fonz’s Steaks and Seafood–Manhattan Beach

Fratelli’s NY Pizza–Woodland Hills

John O’Groats–Encino

John O’Groats–West LA

Kate Mantilini’s–Beverly Hills

Kate Mantilini’s-Woodland Hills

Kip’s–El Segundo

Lawry’s Carvery–Century City

Lawry’s Carvery–S Coast Plaza

Lawry’s–Beverly Hills

Literati Cafe–West LA

Malibu Seafood–Malibu

Michael’s--Santa Monica

Neli’s Deli–West LA

Nichol’s Restaurant–Marina del Rey

Petrelli’s Steakhouse–Culver City

Rock’n Fish–LA

Rock’n Fish–Manhattan Beach

Stanley’s–Sherman Oaks

Tam O’Shanter–LA

The Galley–Santa Monica

The Great Greek–Sherman Oaks

Tony’s Liquor and Deli–Sherman Oaks

Venice Beach Wines–Venice

Sorrento’s Italian Market–Culver City

Zin Bistro–Westlake Village

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Ultimate Friday Giveaway

Been baking all week

My daughter requested a loaf of French bread for her birthday.

That was Tuesday…

My husband wanted to take another giant loaf of sourdough to Renato, the owner of his favorite coffee spot, Via Maestra, but this time not force him to eat it. Here it is below, before it took the short trip from our home to the coffee shop down the road. (See this post–A Tribute to Community–for the earlier story)

That was Wednesday, and here it is on display in Via Maestra 🙂

And Friday turned into Ultimate Bread Giveaway Day. I needed to drive my daughter to LA; she was invited to spend the weekend with her cousins. My brother, whose bakery now has all the health certificates you could ever ask for, will begin delivering bread to customers on Tuesday. They’ve been baking up a storm these last two months, with no one to eat all the product, so it just ends up everywhere–mostly given to the mayor of Hawthorne where the bakery is–who then takes it to the city’s soup kitchen and homeless shelter. When my brother showed up at his house with two giant bags of the most gorgeous sourdough, I was happy to take a loaf, or seven!

I then gave out three loaves at my son’s school. Gave one loaf to a lady walking down the street, and we’re eating a giant loaf of rye right now…Just had an avocado and roasted red pepper sandwich. Here’s a photo of some of the amazing loaves of bread coming out of Etxea Bakery.

I still haven’t given any bread to the triplets down the way.

Oh, oh…. and my daughter helped me gather some sea water at Butterfly Beach. We’re going to make our very own Santa Barbara sea salt. More posts on that as we progress, but until then, three cheers for Madeleine who braved some very, very cold water to humor her wacky mother.

Okay everyone, that’s my bread giving week. Let’s just keep chugging along together, giving to others as we can. I’d love to hear your stories…

Cheers!

Bakery Field Trip–The Real Deal

Brief baking hiatus

Too embarrassed to bake in my father’s house…

Our family is sneaking in a quick visit to wish our LA clan a merry Christmas. I haven’t baked in two days, and the only giving has been one of trying to keep our things from invading every corner of my parent’s clean home. I could never outgive my parents–nor would I ever try. They are the most generous people I’ve ever met…

But bread baking isn’t far from our minds. My brothers are just about to launch a new commercial baking enterprise, and yesterday we got to visit the construction site. There were dough mixers, conveyor belts just for baguettes, proofers, retarders, and a lot of talk about a certain dough cutter… There is an artisan oven being installed as we speak. It was a great field trip–so that’s what I’m bringing you today. A peek into Etxea Bakery; they will be testing bread in their new custom, Italian-made oven before the New Year arrives.

Dad and Chris, the contractor.

Such pretty new machinery

The intermediate proofer

Loves the machines!

Enormous proof box--got locked in one of these in St. Louis once. Almost ended up in the headlines...

Baguette conveyor belt

Bare bones of a rack oven--you insert a full rack on wheels into the oven for baking

Michel and his crew are installing the Italian-made, custom deck oven

My son with a very odd conversation piece from years past